What can you do to help Wiltshire commemorate centenary of First World War?

This Is Wiltshire: The famous First World War poster depicting Lord Kitchener The famous First World War poster depicting Lord Kitchener

Your county needs you to help commemorate the centenary of the First World War. That was the message hammered home during a community briefing at Tidworth Garrison Theatre.

Community groups, teachers and parish councillors were among those invited to hear from representatives of the armed forces, history projects, the Imperial War Museum and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The first speaker was Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott OBE, who urged the audience to take advantage of the help available for their projects.

“We always knew that Wiltshire – with its military history – and huge sense of pride and support for the armed forces – would want to commemorate and remember its loss in the First World War," she said.

“2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, and last year when I visited communities across the county to talk about this key date I was overwhelmed by the commitment and interest in how Wiltshire would remember.

“What was clear was that almost every local community was intending – and is now doing – something to remember.

“Whilst some thought it didn’t seem appropriate to mark the start of the Great War, nationally it will be marked, and we know that many of you will mark this date and many of the milestones during the next four years.”

Coun Scott reminded the audience of the commemorative ceremony at Tidworth Military Cemetery on Wednesday, July 30, at 10am, organised in conjunction with 43 (Wessex) Brigade, which will remember the 10,000 Wiltshire people who died in the war.

She said: “We know that there is capacity for up to 10,000 attendees at this site and we want to ensure that the event marks the remembrance in an inclusive, dignified and thought provoking way.

“Working with the schools and community groups we want to mark each of Wiltshire’s 10,000 fallen soldiers by having a cross made by our school children that will display the soldier’s name.

"Each cross will take its place on a wall of remembrance, which will be the main focus for this special service.”

Brigadier Piers Hankinson, of 43 (Wessex) Brigade, spoke about the history of the Army in Wiltshire, from the English Civil War through to the present day.

Among the images he displayed was one taken outside the Bear Hotel in Devizes during the First World War, showing a group of soldiers including John McCrae, the Canadian author of In Flanders Fields, one of the most famous and poignant poems inspired by the conflict.

The list of speakers also included Heritage Lottery Fund Development Manager Richard Bellamy, Peter Tyas from the county’s Arts and Archives department, and Josie Gale from the Imperial War Museum’s First World War centenary project.

Between them they highlighted various community commemorations, including a flower festival in Wootton Bassett and the granting of the freedom of Trowbridge to the Royal Artillery.

Richard Broadhead, who runs the Wilshire Soldiers website - wiltshiresoldiers.co.uk - also spoke.

The site is a database of service personnel which is open for consultation by the public. Mr Broadhead also showed Letters from a Small Town, a film he devised in which letters from people involved in the conflict are brought to life by actors.

The piece is in the final of this year’s Houston International Film Festival.

Further information about events in Wiltshire and how to become involved can be found at wiltshire.gov.uk/events

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